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Proposed casino would draw 300,000 in first year, report says

CHAMBERLAIN -- An economic report conducted as part of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe’s efforts to build a $34 million casino in Oacoma says the proposed facility would draw 300,000 visitors and make a $55 million impact on the local economy after its first year of operation.

Those figures were released as part of two public meetings put on by the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe Thursday, the latest at the AmericInn Lodge and Suites in Chamberlain.

The meetings are a part of an environmental assessment being done by Kadrmas, Lee & Jackson, an engineering firm out of Bismarck, N.D., to do a third-party review for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. KLJ is looking at environmental factors, including water and wildlife, but also the socioeconomic factors.

Tribal chairman Michael Jandreau spoke about the desire to work with the community on the project and the need for the tribe to make use of the casino opportunity.

“In short, frankly, all of the governmental responsibility that is supposed to provide for our reservation and our people just isn’t coming,” Jandreau said. “We have to do what we have to do in order to make our reservation and our community better.”

Casino Consolidated Systems consultant Ron Valentine, of Blooming Prairie, Minn., issued the economic impact report, which says the casino would attract 300,000 visitors annually and 500,000 visitors by year three. His $55 million figure is mostly comprised of construction materials that would come from local and state suppliers, construction employee earnings and goods and services bought locally. Valentine’s report says the construction of the casino would make an economic impact of $21 million and estimated 280 construction-related jobs, which he said would likely be given priority to tribal members. He bases his report on other Midwest casino projects that he has consulted with.

“Much of my numbers are based on projects that I’ve worked with around the region,” he said.

Valentine’s report also says that while the casino would sit on non-taxed trust land, nearby property values would increase in the surrounding area and that crime would not increase.

The next stage of the process includes sending the draft environmental assessment to the Bureau of Indian Affairs in April and a final version in July. If approved at that point, it would go to U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, who would need to make a decision. South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard would have the final say on the casino construction approval. That process is in place because the land is not adjacent to the tribe’s reservation -- it is located about 5 miles south of the Lower Brule reservation.

Steve Czeczok, an environmental planner with KLJ, said the firm solicited comments from 60 local government entities and received comments back from roughly a dozen.